Andrew Coltart helped change a Scottish coaching set-up he “detested” and now the former player turned TV commentator is delighted to see the likes of Bob MacIntyre, David Law, Grant Forrest and Connor Syme blossoming on the European Tour.
While typically claiming no personal credit whatsoever, there can be no denying that Coltart played a part in a significant upturn in fortunes for Scottish players making the transition from amateur to professional over the past few years.
Initially involved with the Scottish Golf Union, the former Ryder Cup player served on Scottish Golf’s performance committee, where he was joined by Catriona Matthew, in what was effectively a mentoring role. Coltart, a former Scottish Boys and Scottish Stroke Play champion, came off the committee around three years ago, but his prediction in 2014 that better times were on their way due to a “culture change” has been well and truly vindicated.
Led by MacIntyre, pictured, as he recorded seven top-10 finishes in being crowned as Rookie of the Year, last season was easily the best from a Scottish perspective on the European Tour for a long time.
“It’s not satisfying from a personal aspect, but it is good that we are finally getting some Scottish players – boys and girls – who are reaching the heights they want to reach and being talked about in the golfing world,” Coltart, now enjoying life with a microphone in his hand as part of the Sky Sports golf team, said.
“When I was involved with the Scottish Golf Union, it felt there was a one-size-fits -all type of mentality, which, from my experience, I detested. I wanted to try and get away from that and if that, in any way, has contributed to what is happening now, then great. What we are really seeing, though, is the same thing that happened in England. One player from a group used to competing against each other and know they can beat each other punches through and then others follow suit. When that happens, you start to sow seeds of confidence in the whole group and back throughout the whole system.”
On the back of MacIntyre, Law, Forrest and Liam Johnston graduating from the Challenge Tour at the end of the 2018 season, Syme and Calum Hill made the same step-up to the European Tour for the current campaign, and Daniel Young has started strongly on the second-tier circuit this year.
“That’s the confidence that comes through,” added Coltart, a two-time European Tour winner before calling time on his playing career in 2011. “But it’s also cyclical. We’d gone from a period where we had Bernard Gallacher, Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance, Gordon Brand Jnr and Ken Brown, an older generation of Scots.
“Then Monty [Colin Montgomerie] came along, then myself and Paul Lawrie, then Stevie Gallacher, Ali Forsyth, Stevie O’Hara and people like that. There were drips coming through, but now you’ve got a proportion of strength that has punched its way through.
“There are a couple more still on the periphery on the Challenge Tour and I have every confidence they will punch through, too. It’s a much younger generation and that is giving us real hope for Scottish golf at the moment.”
One of the changes implemented during Coltart’s time on the performance committee was a decision to let promising youngsters continue to work with their own coaches, allowing Ian Rae, the long-time national coach, to focus more on areas like course management.
“I think there was a concerted effort to get the coach away from specifically coaching each individual and more into a management role,” said Coltart. “They were able to turn up at events knowing that had been taken care of, so to speak. You could counter that, in the big wide world, by saying they need to learn to do things for themselves, but, nonetheless, that was good.
“Hopefully, the role of Ian at the time had changed from autonomy over every single player involved in the national set-up to much more communication with a player’s individual coach, who had monitored these kids from a very young age and who had maintained a strong hand in their development. It wasn’t, in effect, being overridden by a central coach.”
In his time on the Scottish Golf committee, Coltart worked closely with Stephen Docherty, who is now off the governing body’s board and is also stepping down from his day job with Aberdeen Standard Investments after more than 25 years with the company.
“I’ve seen golf change a lot over the years,” said Coltart. “There is much more to it than when we were going through that system 30 years ago, when it was a case of saying, ‘right, let’s go off to the range and hit balls’.
“There’s much more to it now and I think Doc was foremost in implementing ideas and attitudes that are all part of the big pie in making somebody a good golfer. He helped bring in things that you have to learn and contribute to you becoming a successful person first then a successful golfer. I think Doc was paramount in making that happen.”